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Acme food chain's
Black History circular touting greens, grape soda causes stir
By Hiran Ratnayake
The Wilmington News Journal
(February 7, 2009) One thing is clear about Acme Markets' recent Black
History Month circular: It sparked a debate.
Two NAACP chapters have different views about the circular. It has
forced Supervalu, which owns Acme, to defend itself against accusations
All for an advertisement the company says it has been running for seven
years and never caused a flap before.
In its Jan. 29 circulars, under a "Black History Month" banner, a set of
specials is advertised for products including corn bread, collard greens
and grape soda. Since then, the Delaware chapter of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People says more than a
hundred people have complained the products perpetuate stereotypes.
Delaware NAACP President Cecil C. Wilson called for Acme to immediately
run a full-page apology "in all of Delaware's newspapers."
racist, it's insensitive, it's not culturally correct," Wilson said.
"Don't assume that to celebrate Black History Month that we must have
corn bread. Whoever put this ad together thought it'd be a good joke."
Officials from Supervalu did not respond to interview requests Friday.
In a statement, the company said the advertisement was designed to
highlight Black History Month and many of the items are products
supplied through the company's "supplier diversity program."
"For example, Glory Foods, an African American-owned manufacturer, is
featured with four of its products because it is our way of supporting
and strengthening their brand with added exposure during the month of
February," the statement said.
Supervalu, based in Eden Prairie, Minn., operates 12 Acme supermarkets
in Delaware and 118 others in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The
promotional ad, which went to 3.5 million households, also advertises a
President Barack Obama DVD and plaque, paper towels, dish soap, energy
drinks and Jose Ole chimichangas and tacos.
The ad wasn't offensive to Jerry Mondesire, president of the
Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, whose organization has teamed up with
Supervalu for events in the past, including in-store promotions.
Mondesire said Supervalu doesn't need to apologize for anything.
"I eat those foods, so it's fine if someone markets those foods to me,"
Mondesire said of the corn bread and collard greens. "A lot of companies
market to African-Americans during the month of February."
Wilson, on the other hand, said Acme shouldn't be discounting any foods
specifically because it's Black History Month.
"What they're trying to do is pull in a particular group of people
during a particular month to jack up their sales," he said. "If they
want to continue to do that, they're going to see a decline."
Acme discounts products tied to 21 other holiday and ethnic
celebrations. During Hispanic Heritage Month -- starting Sept. 15, Acme
discounts foods such as salsa and avocados. Maria Matos of the Latin
American Community Center said those discounts wouldn't offend her.
Instead, she'd "head over there to shop in a heartbeat."
But because food isn't tied to Black History Month, the discounts
demonstrate that Supervalu doesn't comprehend the meaning of the
observation, said Ken Smikle, the founder of Chicago-based Target Market
News, a firm that focuses on marketing-industry activities that target
black consumers. Any controversy could easily have been avoided, Smikle
said, had Supervalu sought advice from a black advertising agency.
"It's not like Thanksgiving or Christmas, and this has nothing to do
with the Hispanic holiday," he said. "What's offensive about this is how
that store interprets how I or anyone else celebrate Black History
In Colonial times, slave owners would discard the remains of butchered
hogs, and slaves would cook and season those parts, such as chitterlings
and feet, into delicacies. The Acme ad took on a similar theme, Wilson
said, by discounting Acme soda and maple syrup instead of the brand-name
"This whole thing is cheapo," he said. "All the products on sale are
typically low-grade products that they have to clean off the shelves. I
don't know what their motive is, but it still reeks with suspicion."
Jerome Brown Jr. of New Castle felt that the ad was stereotypical, but
"I have a few friends who don't use any of these items," said Brown, who
is black. "Putting collard greens and hot sauce on sale makes it more of
an ignorant stereotype -- but that doesn't mean I'll stop shopping at
"For the past seven years, ACME has sought to highlight Black History
Month through in-store events, donations to community organizations and
the support of minority-owned suppliers. Many of the items that are
highlighted in our advertisement are products supplied through our
supplier diversity program. For example, Glory Foods, an African
American-owned manufacturer, is featured with four of their products
because it is our way of supporting and strengthening their brand with
added exposure during the month of February.
All of the manufacturers in the advertisement actively support and have
partnered with ACME in its Black History Month events because we believe
in and choose to recognize the vital contributions that African
Americans make to not only our community but also our nation. Our
advertisement was just one way that ACME chose to salute Black History
Month. In partnership with [105.3 WDAS-FM] radio, ACME is holding
in-store events throughout the area and will award more than $35,000 in
college scholarships to local high school seniors at the culmination of
our regional Black History Month events to be held later this month at
the Constitution Center.
Mr. Cecil Wilson, president of the Delaware State Conference of the
NAACP Branches has contacted us to raise some concerns about the
advertisement. We recognize the sensitivity of our customers and are
taking their concerns into account as we move forward with our
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